How an Epidemic Gave Us an Epic Monk

You are probably familiar with the early Benedictine monk who goes by the name Venerable Bede. His Feast Day is May 25. He was one of the early giants in English Literature, right up there with Chaucer and company. His life, which began around 673, was highly influenced by a virulent epidemic that raged across England in multiple waves during his lifetime.

When he was a young lad of 7, his parents put him in the Benedictine monastery of Saints Peter and Paul, – apparently not an uncommon practice back in the day. When he was 13, he transferred to the newly founded monastery of Jarrow in Northeast England. Within months of the monastery’s opening, a plague ravaged the area. Within a year all the monks of Jarrow had died – save the Abbot and the teenaged Bede. The old man and the novice sang the Liturgical Hours together, alternating verses in an otherwise empty choir. Bede served the Abbot’s Mass throughout the dark days of the plague. No one else could be present.

Studies, Prayer Continue for Seminarians via Remote Formation

In the midst of hungering for Sacramental Communion, longing to return to the seminary, praying for the lives impacted by COVD-19 and navigating the challenges of remote learning, seminarian Richard Groff has come to understand that the struggles associated with the current pandemic are part of his formation.

Not being able to attend Mass and receive the Holy Eucharist “has been one of the biggest challenges for me as a seminarian,” he said in a Zoom interview from his home.

Rogation Days Are Here Again

What to do when your diocese is overwhelmed by hostile invaders and natural disasters? Around 470 Saint Mamertus, Bishop of Vienne in Dauphiny (today’s France), had to figure out a plan of action. The Goths, the Huns, earthquakes, fires and crop failures were plaguing the faithful of his diocese. What to do? How about turning to God? He initiated “rogation” or “asking” processions – several days of penitential processions with public supplications. The devotion soon spread far beyond Vienne. In 816 Pope Leo III introduced this practice into Rome and eventually it was observed throughout the Church. There were processions during which the Litany of the Saints, Psalms and other prayers were chanted, followed by a special Rogation Day Mass on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before Ascension Thursday.

Mothers and Saints

Many of us looking back on our childhood and young adulthood are humble enough to admit “My mother is/was a saint.” We probably did not accord our mothers the high honor at the time but now in retrospect they should be canonized for their limitless patience, unflagging perseverance and unconditional love. Since we just observed Mother’s Day and since I have been on a roll recently writing about two saints, I got to thinking about saints – ancient and recent – who were mothers.

Guidelines Announced for Parishes in ‘Yellow’ Zone Counties

As counties transition from “red” to “yellow,” the Diocese of Harrisburg has provided new guidelines for parishes in these “yellow” zones. These guidelines were developed after reviewing the directives from the Governor’s Office and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as studies provided through the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Diocese will review and amend these directives as this situation continues to develop.

The Value of Spiritual Communion

In the last reflection I wrote about a very contemporary young man on the path to sainthood. Now I want to share one of the most unusual saint stories that I have ever heard. I first learned of this Holy One on retreat this past January with the bishops of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The experience of this saint has a particular relevance in our present situation where almost all Catholics are prevented from receiving the Eucharist and limited to making a Spiritual Communion.

The Path to Sainthood

When I meet with the Confirmation candidates before the Mass, I like to remind them of the great diversity that exists among the canonized saints. After all they have been browsing through the Saints’ Who’s Who to determine what name they want to be called at the moment of their Confirmation. We often have a very narrow idea regarding the saints’ personalities, virtues and behaviors. But, in fact, there is no one pattern a man, woman or child must fit into to exhibit sanctity. Some Holy Ones were kings or queens and some homeless; some were highly educated, great scholars and authors and others never had one hour of formal education; some lived into advanced old age and others died in youth. All saints don’t look alike.

On the Road Again

When I visit elementary school classrooms, a question frequently posed, especially by the younger students, is “What is your favorite Bible story.” My stock response is that I have many favorites but Luke 24, “The Disciples on the Road to Emmaus,” is pretty close to the top. On the Third Easter Sunday we were treated to that very narrative.

I’m sure that you’ve noticed that the actual framework of the story is that of our Mass. It begins with the Word of God. The stranger walking along with the disciples quotes and interprets the Scriptures, explaining how it all pointed to the recent events that had taken place in Jerusalem. Then, at table using the words and gestures of the Last Supper, He breaks the Bread and their eyes are opened. They recognize that this is no stranger but the Risen Christ. With this realization He immediately disappears from their physical eyesight. They immediately hightail it back to the place of their disappointment to announce to the apostles the grace they had experienced.